As much as you might like to think your bike is invincible in the face of tough terrain, bumps and bad weather, our two-wheeled friends need a little bit of TLC from time to time.
You might not be able to remedy every problem your bike comes up against – which is where a local bike shop comes in handy – but a bit of DIY maintenance know-how is certainly achievable.
Stuart Harwood-Hope is a head mechanic at The Bike Project, a cycling initiative that refurbishes second-hand bikes and donates them to refugees and asylum seekers. The charity is currently running virtual ‘Dr Bike’ sessions that link up bike owners with mechanics, who can assist with basic repairs and maintenance virtually.
Here, he shares his tips for keeping your bike in good working order at home…
1. Cover up
“If you can avoid it, don’t leave your bike outside,” says Harwood-Hope. “Not only does this help keep your bike safe from thieves, it also stops rainwater from causing rust.” Rust can damage small components such as gears, chains and brake pads, potentially making your bike unsafe to ride.
Harwood-Hope adds: “If you don’t have space in your house, cover your bike.” You can buy waterproof bike rain covers in a variety of sizes online.
2. Check your tyre health
“I recommend checking your tyres every two weeks for glass and stone,” says Harwood-Hope. This can help you avoid encountering a cumbersome puncture later down the line.
He adds that it’s also a good idea to make sure there’s enough air in the inner tubes too and, if necessary, top them up. You can check this by pinching the sidewalls of the tyre between thumb and forefinger.
3. Keep it well oiled
The chain is one of the dirtiest parts of your bike, so needs regular cleaning with a firm brush (a toothbrush will work) to remove anything clogging it up.
It’s a good idea to invest in some specialist bike lubricant too. “If your chain squeaks while you’re pedalling, it’s time for oil,” says Harwood-Hope.
4. Kit up on essentials
Having the right maintenance kit to fix your bike, should you encounter any problems, is important for any beginner cyclist. “You’ll be all set for most issues if you have an Allen key set, a spanner, a great lock, a puncture repair kit and a small tyre pump,” advises Harwood-Hope.
5. Keep it tight
“Tighten all the nuts and bolts on your bike with Allen keys, once a month,” says Harwood-Hope. “This will help keep your bike in better condition between services.”
6. Check your saddle
“Don’t ignore any physical aches and pains, as this is usually a sign your bike needs a bit of adjustment,” says Harwood-Hope. Backache could suggest your saddle is in the wrong position.
Move the saddle up to the height of your hip bone, when you’re stood next to the bike. When seated on the bike and cycling, your leg should be straight and your knee should be fully locked when you’re fully extending to 6’o clock on the pedal.
7. Call in the experts
“Get a pro bike service a couple of times a year, rather than waiting until something breaks,” suggests Harwood-Hope. “This means your bike will be kept at optimum performance and on the road for longer.”
A bike service will usually involve a brake and gear adjustment, general lubrication and a tyre inflation check.
“Depending on your level of expertise, you can easily oil your chain, adjust your seat and pump up tyres, but know when you need help from a pro, as you can easily make things worse,” says Harwood-Hope.